Legal aid cuts will undermine the credibility of the UK’s justice system says Refugee charity

Last updated June 4, 2013Press release

In a written submission to the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Legal Aid consultation, Refugee Action has strongly rejected the government’s proposals to cut legal aid.

The national refugee and asylum charity warns that by removing the right to legal aid for certain groups of people in the UK, the government fundamentally undermines the principle of access to justice as a universal right.

Refugee Action Chief Executive, Dave Garratt, says: “Legal aid is an essential safeguard to ensure that those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice can still access justice. Never before has the government attempted to exclude a whole class of people without consideration or reference to the particulars of the case. Such a proposal constitutes  the creation of a state-sponsored underclass where marginalised groups in society will have no meaningful recourse to the courts. It is hard to see how such a proposal generates any credibility in the justice system and only serves to undermine the UK’s internationally-respected tradition of upholding the rule of law.”

Evidence submitted by the charity reveals that a significant reduction in publicly funded legal representation for asylum seekers is already having an impact on the availability of legal professionals to take on cases that challenge the refusal of asylum or present a fresh case.

Under the new proposals, refused asylum seekers will not be eligible for legal aid and routes to judicial review will be severely restricted.

Dave Garratt adds: “The lack of quality in decision making in the UK’s asylum system is deeply worrying and legal intervention is the only way to ensure a just outcome for many of the individuals that we provide practical advice and support. Further cuts to legal aid will deny some of the most vulnerable people in society the opportunity to pursue their claim for asylum and to escape destitution. It is imperative that we uphold this universal safeguard in holding the State to account on important areas of law where human rights and civil liberties have been abused.”

The charity’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s proposal comes in the wake of serious cuts to civil aid provision last year and is campaigning for greater access to justice for all.

Refugee Action will join with campaigners, legal groups, and charities to protest against the proposed legal aid cuts at a demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice today (4 June).

ENDS

For further information, images or to request an interview, please contact Refugee Action Press & PR Officer, Antony Watson, on +44 (0) 7771748159 or email antonyw@refugee-action.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

  • Refugee Action is a national charity working to enable refugees to build new lives in the UK. We provide practical advice and assistance to newly arrived asylum seekers and long-term commitment to their settlement through community and development work. As one of the country’s leading agencies in the field, Refugee Action has more than 30 years’ experience in pioneering innovative work in partnership with refugees. For more information, please visit www.refugee-action.org.uk